Under the stewardship of Minister of Post and Telecommunications Chea Vandeth, a remarkable tale of digital transformation has unfolded. It’s a narrative weaving together high school students, digital prowess and an unshakable belief in the potential of the nation’s youth to pioneer innovations in the digital age.

This journey from a reality competition show known as “Digital Talents” to a nation on the brink of a technological leap showcases the unwavering spirit of young Cambodians, replete with innovation, unwavering resolve and a vision where digital aspirations materialise into tangible reality.

Vandeth underscores the significance of acquiring technological skills for a promising future, highlighting the potential not only within the Kingdom but also on a global scale. He actively seeks companies to support start-up ventures within the country, fostering an environment ripe for innovation.

He encourages those with imagination and a desire to create something new, promising guidance in both entrepreneurship and technology to translate dreams into reality.

Vandeth conveyed this during the Awards Grant ceremony for the champion and other winners of the Digital Talents reality show on October 26, marking the commencement of a new journey within the digital industry for Cambodian students.

As the event progressed towards its climax, anticipation filled the hall, drawing the rapt attention of parents, guardians and even the minister himself.

The top six finalists held everyone in thrall with their exceptional skills and unwavering commitment throughout the competition. When the winners were ultimately revealed, it ignited a moment of celebration and national pride.

Chamroeun Amara, Peng Kimsan and Luy Kim Chuor, the triumphant champions, electrified the audience with waves of excitement. Their achievements not only delighted their families but also resonated with the entire nation, for these young talents embody Cambodia’s future in the digital era.

Amara, a Grade 12 student and the third among the top six finalists, encapsulated the transformative journey of Digital Talents.

“The benefits I’ve gained from the Digital Talents programme are huge. I’ve acquired a range of digital skills, received valuable guidance from the committee and forged friendships with fellow contestants,” she told The Post.

Kimsan, a Grade 11 student who clinched second place, expresses appreciation for the programme’s influence on his communication skills and teamwork.

Kim Chuor, the Grade 11 student who secured first prize, personifies the spirit of resilience and determination.

“I see that the other candidates are very courageous, and that courage has seeped into me,” said Kim Chuor.

The young man, aspiring to pursue a career in engineering, says his desire to take part in the competition stemmed from his simple wish for a laptop. He openly admits that while he isn’t particularly fond of reading books, he takes great pleasure in watching online tutorials.

Despite initial nervousness, he persevered through the various competition stages. He encourages young people to follow their passions, urging them to study according to their abilities and preferences.

San Vathana, the undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, asserts that in the past four months, students have been acquiring new skills in critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration and project development that complement their classroom knowledge.

“All the young participants have been acquiring effective communication skills, receiving guidance, instructions, explanations and sharing experiences with a diverse group of technology experts, speakers and trainers,” he explained.

“Moreover, by participating in this competition, participants have granted themselves a fresh opportunity to conquer challenges, adapt to new disciplines and unveil the potential of their aspirations,” he added.

Among the top three finalists, the show’s champion was awarded a prize of 15 million riel ($3,750), 10 million riel ($2,500) for second place and five million riel ($1,250) for third place.

The three champions will also be granted four-year full-time undergraduate scholarships to the American University of Phnom Penh (AUPP). The finalists who clinched 1st through 6th place will receive scholarships to pursue bachelor’s degrees in Digital Technology.

Finalists will also have opportunities to visit tech powerhouses such as Google, Amazon and Meta in Singapore.

A journey of discovery

Digital Talents commenced its journey on June 2 at the telecoms ministry in Phnom Penh. The programme’s objective was to identify and nurture the digital skills of Cambodian high school students. With over 1,000 students from across the nation participating, it signified the youth’s keen interest in digital technology.

“The selection process was rigorous, with participants undergoing pre-screening and audition phases held in different cities across Cambodia,” said Chin Thomith, the show’s executive producer.

The competition, however, did not focus solely on academic prowess; it served as a test of adaptability, teamwork and creativity.

Throughout a challenging seven-week Battle Zone phase, contestants received education on various topics, including robotics, green technology and data science. Weekly eliminations maintained high stakes, allowing only the most resilient participants to advance.

“Digital Talents offers not just a competition but an educational and entertaining show with the goal of spreading and promoting digital knowledge among, aligning with the government’s and the telecoms ministry’s Strategic Plan 2023-35 to empower all Cambodians with digital knowledge,” Thomith explained.

Each of the 14 episodes, featured on the ministry’s official social media page, has garnered over seven million views, along with numerous congratulations for this remarkable accomplishment.

Inspiring future innovators

Vandeth, a prominent advocate for Digital Talents, envisions the Kingdom’s youth as future digital trailblazers.

He sees a future where digital technology drives the nation’s economic growth and societal development.

He recalls Cambodia’s journey, spanning the idea of national recovery four decades ago, the era of national unification in the 1990s and extending into the periods of integration, restoration and national development.

He highlights that, in the present era of peace, Cambodia is committed to development, particularly concentrating on digital technology in the business realm.

In the framework of the nation’s digital aspirations for 2021-35, Vandeth portrays it as a shift towards comprehensive digital transformation spanning all sectors of the economy and society. This transition relies on harnessing and fully utilising advancements in information and communication technology.

“Digital technology plays a pivotal role in promoting growth, improving productivity and economic efficiency and establishing a civil society based on digital citizenship,” he said.

“In five to 10 years, paper currency will no longer be in use; instead, we will rely entirely on digital technology. Several nations have already made this transition. To address this changing landscape, the government has initiated multiple policies to digitalise our nation as part of our technological transformation,” he explained.

Vandeth highlights three pivotal government policies in sync with the digital economy and society: digital government, digital literacy and support for digital entrepreneurs.

He encourages the nation’s youth to cultivate their digital abilities, underscoring that those proficient in digital literacy can secure high-paying positions and even pioneer million-dollar innovations.

“If they possess imaginations and aspire to create something innovative, we will provide guidance in both entrepreneurship and technology to help them realise their dreams,” he said.

He elaborates on the government’s core policies to align with the digital economy and society: digital governance, fostering digital literacy among the populace and establishing digital centres in selected schools, all while nurturing digital entrepreneurs.